The Broken Road
Glen Oak, California- May 2010
It was the beginning of May, and as was always the case, she felt the weight of dread hit her. She supposed that she shouldn't. She knew that Stanley would say it was just superstitious, but she couldn't help it.
Even after all these years.
Because May still brought pain.
Hurrying up the sidewalk to the door of her parents' house as she balanced her books, she couldn't help but make a mental list of those events. 'That night.' 'Eighteenth and Potomac' mixed with the 'announcement.' CJ being stalked and her agent being killed in an unrelated incident. 'The kidnapping.' 'The Cordel.' 'Gaza the 2nd. . .' shaking her head, she used her key to enter the house as she tried to remind herself that May was a month like every other. That good things happened then too. Huck and Molly. Georgia. . .
"Tella, glad you're here. Mom and Dad are busy and Kevin is working undercover again so I was kinda hoping that. . ."
"I would watch the kids?" she interrupted her younger sister as she put down her things on the table by the door.
"Yeah and thanks," the younger woman said as she shrugged into her light spring jacket.
"I didn't say. . ." she started to protest as the younger blonde hurried pass, "I really have to get to the church, pre-marital counseling. . ." she rambled as she pulled open the door. "Oh and Ben called about the party on Sat, I told him that of course you'd go with him," she added, closing the door behind her.
"Right, because I wouldn't have anything to do then or tonight!" she said throwing up her hands in annoyance. Biting her lip and inhaling, she turned and headed into the family room where two of her nieces were watching TV and their brother slept in a playpen. As the two blonde girls turned and smiled, she couldn't help but do the same in return, "so you two want to help me make dinner?" she asked.
"Unt uh," Georgia, the younger of the two said with a determined shake of her head as Savannah gave a more forceful "No," before turning her head to look at the TV again.
"Well, that's unsurprising," she muttered as she headed into the kitchen by herself, trying to remind herself that this was alright. This was how her birth family worked. She just still had to get used to it, not that five years shouldn't have been enough time to.
But still, there were issues that would never be resolved because the change in family dynamics couldn't be changed back. "Stop it," she muttered to herself. "Stop blaming and stop feeling guilty. If you didn't want to do this, you should've just said so, not that Lucy would've listened, but you could've," she continued as she went to the freezer and pulled out the makings for a light dinner. "You could've avoided it by staying at the library or going up to the apartment, not that she wouldn't have tracked you down. Or you could just do what Ellie has been saying and regrow your backbone," she continued as she moved to the counter and then stopped. "OK, note to self. Stop talking to self and set up an appointment with Stanley before what's left of your mind is completely gone," she self-mocked as she shook her head at the same time that one of her youngest brothers ran into the room. "Didn't think any one else was here," she said eyeing the twelve year old curiously.
David only shrugged as he went to the refrigerator: "Just got here. Oh, there's some guy here for you."
"Really? Who?" she asked as she wiped her hands on a dishtowel.
"Don't know. Some guy in a dark suit," he shrugged as he turned. "Weird though. He asked for you by the wrong name."
"What do you mean? And don't drink out of the container."
"Whatever," he shot back as he leaned against the refrigerator. "He asked for Donna Moss. . ."
"He did?" she asked, paling slightly. "Did he. . . did he say why he was here? Where he was from?"
"Didn't ask. Why? Is something wrong?" he asked in what she would normally think was a cute protective way since there was over twenty years separating them in age.
"Umm. . . probably not," she tried to reassure as she wiped her sweaty palms on her pants. "Can you just stick around for a few minutes? I. .. um. . ."
"You know Lucy and Kevin don't trust me or Sam with the kids," he started to protest.
"Just. . ." she started exhaling. "Never mind," she added as she hurried towards the living room.
The walk seemed to take forever.
She could hear the TV as she passed through the living room, even if she didn't comprehend the words coming from it.
She automatically processed the sound of the kitchen door opening and closing as she came towards the front door and the man standing just inside it.
"Can I help you?" she asked to the accompaniment of the voices of neighborhood children playing outside floating through the open door while she clasped her clammy hands in front of her.
"Are you Donnatella Moss?" the man asked.
"Moss-Camden," she corrected automatically.
"It's Donnatella Moss-Camden. Complicated the reasoning for it," she babbled, hearing a voice in her hear reminding her that the words were grammatically incorrect in the order she had chosen as she pushed a piece of hair nervously behind her ear. "Umm… you're here why? For who? I mean, you don't look like you're with Treasury."
"I'm with the State Department. I'm here to inform you that Josh Lyman. . ." he started.
But she wouldn't let him finish. "No," she said shakily and forcefully enough that it tore Savannah's interest away from the TV and into the hall. "No. . I don't. . . I don't want to know. . ." she continued as she backed up towards the stairs.
"Ma'am you're listed as his contact person and I was asked to come by President Russell himself to inform you that. . ."
"You were also asked to not say anything till I was here," a gruff voice said from the direction of the kitchen, causing Donna to turn her head slightly as she continued to back towards the steps, her hands now covering her mouth.
"No. . .No. . . I know what I had said, but I can't. . .I can't be the one to do it. I know I promised, but no. . .Don't make me do it," she pleaded as she plopped down onto the second to the last step and buried her head in her hands, not wanting to face even one of her oldest friends.
Cursing under his breath and leaning heavily on his cane, Toby Ziegler crossed over to her and nudged her with his cane. "Come on Donna, I can't stand that long and I am not going to bend down, so slide over."
"At least look at me."
"Why don't you leave her alone?" David asked from the doorway of the living room.
"Why don't you make yourself useful and find someone else to watch those kids tonight. She's not staying." Toby shot back annoyed, as he always was by Donna's family.
"She's not going anywhere with you," David reiterated, wishing that one of his older brothers were here to make the words true.
"Like you're going to stop me kid?"
"Mr. Zeigler, with all do respect. We have little time here," the State Department rep put in as he looked at his watch.
"And we wouldn't be wasting so much if you had followed your orders," Toby shot back before softening his voice and looking at Donna. "Come on, you don't even know why we're here."
"Of course I do. It's May. And you're the one whose job it's always been to tell me the bad news," she answered without looking up.
"Not this time."
"Why because he beat you to it?" she asked on a half-laugh as she indicated the other man with a shaky wave of her hand. "I knew it was coming. I just. . . I can't be the one to identify him."
"You don't have to."
"His will laid out the arrangements," she continued over him, not wanting to let anything he said sink in. Not wanting to have to face a possibility she had spent years avoiding.
"We don't need his will," Toby countered, "Donna, they found him."
Glaring at him she rose to her feet: "Don't you think I get that? Should I be happy that I finally know that he's. . . that there's been a body recovered? Well, I guess I should go call Cowboy Bob and Santos and thank them for keeping their promise, shouldn't I?" she asked before turning and heading up the stairs.
"They didn't find a body, Donna. They found him. Josh is alive. He's asking for you," Toby called after her, watching as her steps faltered before she slid towards the step under her, only her grip on the banister keeping her up right as she managed to turn her body enough to look at him.
"Don't. . .Toby. . ." she cried as she forced herself to face him. "Even if. . . his condition. . . I can't. . .I can't go just to say goodbye."
Shaking his head Toby awkwardly climbed the stairs and stopped a step below her. "Look at me."
"I . .."
"Look at me while I tell you this. He was supposed to wait. I'm here because just once I wanted to be able to give you good news. They found Josh- him, not his body. He's alive. Yes, his condition is critical, but they've stabilized him," he answered, waiting for her eyes to connect with his, continuing as he recognized the disbelief in them. "They flew him into Germany a little over a week ago. Ellie flew out that night, and the former Surgeon General did as well. They along, with Will, thought it would be better till they knew one way or another before they told you. Russell and Santos took their lead."
"How? How did they keep it out of the cycle?" Donna stammered as she tried to come to grips with a possibility she had never been fully able to allow herself to believe would come to pass.
"Luck, I guess," he shrugged. "Anna Beth is better at her job than a lot of us gave her credit for. Will too."
"He's. . .I mean. . .G-d Toby, after all this time. . . is he. . .?"
"All I know is that he's alive and you're the first person he asked for."
Donna nodded: "Does he know about. . ."
"I don't know. I don't think so. He's still pretty weak from what I've been told. They think seeing you will help."
"They're going to need to get him a therapist," she sighed, her mind going into protective mode as she mentally reviewed what state he could be in, then realizing that her own mental state was probably questionable at the moment added: "Hell, I'll probably need to talk to someone. I just. . . I can't believe. . ."
"Stanley will be on the plane. One we don't have a lot of time to catch," Toby informed her, not admitting that he had already called and spoken to the man himself since some images and memories could never be erased no matter how much you tried to erase them.
"I have to watch the kids and. . ."
"Go pack. I'll handle coverage for your sister's brats."
"I don't know what to take? What do I take, Toby?"
"Yeah. G-d I need to get the ring. I haven't worn it since. . ." she rambled as she moved down the stairs. Only to stop: "Passport, I don't have a passport any more," she said with a touch of panic.
"Taken care of."
"Right. Everything's going to be taken care of, I just have to get to Germany," she said, more to herself them him. "Toby, are you going to. . ."
"Yeah. Made a promise to," he shrugged self consciously, "now go get whatever you need."
"What if I don't take the right things?"
"Germany has stores Donna or you can send for them."
"Right. Right. I'm not used to limited notice packing any more. Or any packing for that matter. I'll ummm. . . I won't be long," she said hurriedly as she moved automatically towards the kitchen, her mind trying to assimilate to the news and the change in her routine. . .